There’s a lot of analysis out there today regarding your Boston Celtics and their 4-8 start. About how the stunning Kendrick Perkins trade wasn’t or hasn’t been a significant factor in the team’s rapid decline since last February, despite the team going 19-20 during the regular season since that deal. Let’s take a step back before we get into that though, and appreciate last night for what it was: A chance for Perk and Boston fans to say goodbye.
That’s what a lot of people around the country don’t get about the unending sentiment for Perk from the Boston faithful. The fact he was traded is just the tip of the iceberg. Boston fans never had a chance to say goodbye to one of their favorites over the past year. It’s not just about the fact that he was traded; it’s when it was done, a mere hour before the trade deadline. It’s the fact that head coach Doc Rivers had been preaching for years that his starting five was undefeated when healthy in the playoffs, but shipped off one of those guys before that streak had a chance to be broken. And Doc wasn’t lying when he told reporters he believed in his starting five back then, as I continue to believe to this day he never wanted to trade the center he had groomed over the past eight seasons.
Last night was a bit of a therapy session for everyone involved though. Perk, the media, the fans, the Boston players, you name it. Everyone who had the rug pulled from under them last February, with no real opportunity for closure. The game last night was a healthy step towards finding that closure.
Seeing Perk walk into that Garden locker room as a visitor was a bit surreal. The guy who talked the truth after every game in his Celtic career did the same last night and it was refreshing. It also further reinforced in my mind how big a mistake it was to trade the guy during the season.
People can talk numbers all they want, and we’re a big advocate of them here on CelticsHub. Sometimes though, basketball goes beyond numbers. It can be about trust and team bonds. About continuity. And, yes, about loyalty. Basketball players are human beings too, and when you pull away a guy like Perk, someone so tightly knit into an organization and its reputation, you can hope players will be professionals and play through it, but that was probably expecting too much, especially with last year’s team.
In my opinion, the open wounds caused by Perk’s abrupt departure haven’t fully healed for many involved. The big man himself flat out admitted it last night:
“No, I haven’t [removed my attachment from the C's],” Perk said before the game. “I’m definitely happy where I’m at, never taking that for granted. I’m definitely happy in Oklahoma. I was fortunate to leave one great situation and go to another one. But it’s a bond that you form, especially when you win a championship with guys, and also I’ve been here since a young boy at 18 all the way to the age of 26. So it’s not like a little string you cut and just say ya’ll go your separate ways and that’s just the end of it. At the end of the day, I’m happy and I’m grateful for where I’m at, but I’d be lying to you if I said it’s just a string and I’m cool, I’m not attached and stuff like that, even to the city of Boston.”
I couldn’t have summed it up any better. And that’s the great thing about Perk. There was no resentment in his voice last night. No bitterness about how he’d been treated. Just appreciation.
In all likelihood, even if Perk wasn’t traded during last season, he wouldn’t be here this year. The C’s didn’t want to commit the kind of money necessary to lock him up. I understand that. The fact remains he deserved a chance to finish his run in Boston properly. A sign-and-trade in the offseason would have properly served the same purpose, perhaps with better results for the team
More than anything else, Perk deserved a chance for a goodbye. He got one last night, albeit a year too late.